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Misconceptions about Alzheimer's varies among races, survey suggests
Date:9/18/2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Alzheimer's disease is still a mystery to people of different races and a large percentage of people across the board are unaware that treatments are available to reduce symptoms.

This is one of the surprising findings in a national survey, "Public opinion about Alzheimer's disease among Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites," which was analyzed by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Understanding racial and ethnic influences on knowledge and beliefs about Alzheimer's is critical to communicating risk reduction strategies, symptom recognition, diagnosis and illness management, the paper said.

There were more similarities in patterns of response among the racial groups than expected, said Cathleen Connell, professor in the U-M School of Public Health and director of the Education and Information Transfer Core of the Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. One half of the sample reported that nothing can be done to maintain cognitive functioning and reduce Alzheimer's risk. Similarly, less than half of the sample was aware that treatments can address symptoms and improve quality of life. There were no significant differences among races in the level of concern about getting Alzheimer's disease.

However, some notable differences among blacks, whites and Hispanics were discovered, Connell said. Many more blacks and Hispanics than whites responded that they believe that Alzheimer's is a normal part of aging.

"If family members believe that Alzheimer's disease is the term for normal memory loss associated with aging, they will be less likely to seek diagnosis and treatment in the early phase of the process when more options are available," Connell said. "To the extent that non-whites are much more likely than whites to normalize symptoms of dementia, we need to do a much better job of tailoring messages in an effort to increase public awareness about the disease."

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Contact: Laura Bailey
baileylm@umich.edu
734-647-1848
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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